Posts Tagged ‘networking’

How to Make Career-Related Connections on the Road
Monday, August 20th, 2012

Though I left my job behind to travel the world for thirteen months, I did not abandon my career.

Intentional preparation allowed me to harness my professional skills, expand my experience and qualifications as a landscape architect, and add value to my travels. By laying groundwork before departure and remaining engaged on the road, I’ve connected with relevant projects and opportunities, and as a bonus, I’ve leveraged my skills to offset traveling expenses. While my story is connected to landscape architecture, the concepts apply to careers across the spectrum: nursing, construction, sales, finance, writing, painting, teaching…you name it!

As you plan your career break, consider these eight tips for making career-related connections on the road.

1. Research Other Travelers in Your Profession.

Since university, I’d kept a particular article from Landscape Architecture Magazine tucked away for future reference: a story of two senior level landscape architects who together left their jobs and signed up for two-year contracts with the Peace Corps, donating their skills and expertise to community development and conservations work in eastern Europe. I also valued stories of historical landscape architects whose international travels inspired and shaped their careers.

To Do: Google [Your Profession] and any combination of Travel + Blog + Story + Volunteer + International + Example + Case Study and see what comes up! Follow a blog, read a biography, soak up the inspiration and prepare to inspire.

2. Tap Colleagues and Associates for Resource and Inspiration.

Before departing, I spent time with a few trusted mentors and industry colleagues and asked this question: “While I’m traveling, what would you recommend that I look for and learn from with regard to landscape architecture?” Their answers inspired and shaped me, and helped me more clearly define the professional goals I hoped to achieve while traveling.

To Do: Think carefully through your existing professional network: even if they’re not travelers, are there free spirits who share your passions and professional interests? Schedule coffee dates and ask mentors what they recommend you look for and learn from with regard to your profession. Take notes!

3. Connect with Professional Associations.

Before departure, I’d served on the American Society of Landscape Architects’ Oregon Executive Committee and founded our state’s Emerging Professionals Committee. Curious about professional connections overseas, I contacted the International Federation of Landscape Architects and engaged in a helpful email conversation with the chair of the Young Professionals Advocate Task Force about networking opportunities and the potential for writing/sharing case studies with emerging professionals while on the road. I also received specific contact information for national chapter leaders in various countries around the world.

To Do: Send an email, introduce yourself, ask for contacts. Follow up with introduction emails to individuals along your route.

4. Look for Conferences and Events.

Before leaving, I took note of details for the International Federation of Landscape Architects’ World Conference; the date and location were a potential match for my itinerary! Once on the road, I learned that our visit to Lebanon coincided with the Beirut Design Festival, and I was able to take advantage of the opportunity to view proposals for future urban development projects projects slated for the city.

To Do: Check events calendars for associations and organizations and see if dates align with your travel times and itinerary.

5. Identify Relevant Contacts Within Travel Networks.

Before departing, my husband and I joined Servas, an international organization facilitating peace and hospitality through the cross-pollination of cultures and relationship. As we planned our trip and examined the Servas host directories, we looked for contacts that share interest and influence in our respective professions. For example, when we visited Salvador, Brazil, we connected with a community development worker and a young architect practicing in the city and teaching in the local university; they served as day hosts during our time in the city, and the rich learning experience added a layer of professional relevance to an otherwise touristy cruise-ship stop.

To Do: Research and join relevant travel networks such as Couchsurfing, Servas, Tripl, and begin compiling a list of hosts who share similar career interests and experience.

6. Keep in Touch with Your Alumni Association.

I remain in touch with my Alumni Association and with my department and past professors at the University of Oregon. I sent an update on my travels for our Architecture and Allied Arts Alumni Notes section and let them know about my travels. They in turn sent a request for an interview and published a feature piece on my experience bridging travel and professional practice. The article is a great tool for sharing my ongoing commitment to my profession with colleagues and industry contacts.

To Do: Contact your alma mater to see if they have an international alumni network. Make a note of your university’s contact information; send them an update once you’ve been on the road, supplying details of how your studies and professional practice tie into your overseas experience.

Parque 3 de Febrero Architectural Plan

7. Look for Volunteer Opportunities That Match Your Skill Set.

Opportunities to put your skills to use on the road abound with organizations like and word-of-mouth referrals. I began researching in advance of leavening and made connections for projects where I could use my technical abilities to work in exchange for room and board in South America, Europe, and Africa. Such rich experiences: meeting new “clients,” and assisting in valuable ways while earning housing, meals, and work experience to add to my resume.

My one week room and board exchange for a residential/campground master plan in Bolivia and one month room and board exchange for a retreat center master plan in South Africa literally saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars in lodging, food, and transportation expenses and also provided invaluable experience to add to my professional portfolio (and the chance to spend time with truly wonderful hosts!).

To Do: Volunteer-trade exchanges aren’t limited to particular job types; brainstorm your skill set: technical trade, management, cleaning, writing, computer programming, cooking, providing child care, painting, gardening, driving, teaching, etc., etc. Ask contacts in your personal network if they’re aware of places or projects looking for volunteers. Browse sites like and others. Once you’ve found potential matches, commit to membership, submit your profile, and begin reaching out to potential partners. Treat potential connections as valuable professional opportunities, work hard, and confidently add the experiences to your resume.

8. Harness Social Media.

Since joining Twitter in 2008, I’ve followed local practitioners, companies, commentators, and international organizations related to landscape architecture. Thanks to such accounts as World Landscape Architecture webzine @wlandscapearch and @thisbigcity, the opportunity to read stories about Rio de Janeiro prior to arrival, for example, gave me an added level of understanding of their urban planning, waterfront redevelopment, and utility infrastructure projects in preparation for the Brazil World Cup and Olympics. Following @FutureCapeTown increased my excitement during lead time for the trip and gave me a helpful perspective on the city and its current position as World Design Capital for 2014 once I arrived to walk the streets in person.

To Do: Follow people and projects related to your profession, reach out to them for ideas and input when visiting their regions, and build connections within your industry.

If you find yourself preparing to take an extended break from employment and spend time overseas, I hope these ideas help you lay a solid foundation for making the most of your travels and gaining professional experience along the way.

With a bit of intentional planning and preparation, the decision to step away from your job and gain experience on the journey may turn out to be the greatest next step of your career!

Bethany Rydmark is a landscape architect by trade and a lover of the world by nature. After scheming and dreaming for eight years, planning and saving pennies, she and her husband Ted left their beloved home state of Oregon in 2012 to travel South America, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand. Her stories and photos are scattered around the web: and Tweet her at @bethanyrydmark or @twoOregonians; she’d love to hear your stories.

Working While on a Career Break
Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

outdoor office

Yes, you read that title correctly, no need to rub your eyes and refocus. I know what you are thinking – “You told us that we needed to get away from work and take a break in order slow down, clear your mind, and see the world. Why would we consider working during our career break? Doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose?”

Every situation is different and there are many reasons why someone may want to work on a while on a career break:

• Some people don’t have enough time to save the necessary money for their career break so they need to generate income while they travel.
• You want to dabble in and explore a new career while you are taking a break from your old one.
• You want to dig deeper into a culture and learn about what it’s like to stay longer or work in a place.
• You want to keep your expenses down while you travel.
• You want to meet more locals and have local experiences.

The main goal of a career break should be to take a break from your everyday life and your routine. You want to shake things up and get away from the daily grind so that you can free your mind and provide space to think and process things – this is when you start to reap the benefits of a career break. The key is getting away, and what you do when you get away is up to you.

As Jonah Lehrer writes in a piece for the Guardian,

“Several new science papers suggest that getting away – and it doesn’t even matter where you’re going – is an essential habit of effective thinking.”

For those of you who fall into the myriad of situations that cause someone to want to work on a career break, then we have some resources for you as you look for work during your break.

Working for Reduced Expenses

HelpX is a site where people ask for help, and you work in exchange for lodging and sometimes food. In a typical HelpX arrangement, the helper works an average of 4 hours per day and receives free accommodation and meals for their efforts. Note that a real salary is not really paid typically – but you do cut your travel expenses drastically by not paying for lodging.

The opportunities on HelpX range from handyman/woman work at hostels and guest houses, to social media help for small business, to crewing boats, riding horses, and fruit picking. To get a better idea of what opportunities they list, take a look at a few of their  international listings.

Think good Thoughts

Working for a Salary

If you think you are looking for a real salary and something more permanent then check out this comprehensive article about How to Make a Living on the Road. It provides inspirational stories and detailed information about what kind of careers are good for making money on the road and what you may expect to make in a year. In addition, it provides some stellar advice on how to get over fear in making any big change in your life.

“Fear and taking a leap – fear has a way of fermenting in your mind, the longer you sit and think something over, the more likely you are to allow all of the things that could go wrong pile up in the back of your head until you’re paralyzed by your worst enemy, your own imagination in fear mode.“

Finding Work Via Networking on the Road

Our Meet Plan Go Chicago Host, Lisa Lubin, is a career break veteran who worked her way around the world just using her own personal networks. After all, traveling is about meeting people, and when you can meet local people and expats, then your work opportunities really open up. She found random opportunities from working for Turkey’s largest media conglomerate, to doing research at the University of Cologne, to landing a year-long freelance gig doing publicity for an English Immersion program based in Madrid. The key – you have to make an effort to meet locals and be open to possibilities.

Another resource worth noting is Transitions Abroad – which offers article, resources, and programs for those interested in finding work overseas.

All of this working while on career break just broadens your horizons and increases your experience for your resume when you return.  In fact – you may find that you like it so much that you don’t want to quit!

Career Break Doesn’t Equal Career Suicide
Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

In the post “Lisa Lubin’s New Business Card” Lisa shared with us how her career break didn’t hurt her career. It in fact enhanced it and has now opened up more career opportunities.

And this is one of the topics that came up when the New York City panel for Meet, Plan, Go! got together to brainstorm what we would discuss at our recent event. We wanted to touch on “Why don’t more people take career breaks?” and in our encounters one of those reasons is career related.

MPGNYC Panelists

So what did our panel have to say about career fears?

Brook Silva-Braga (A Map for Saturday) – More Broadly Educated
First off, there WILL be job openings when you come home and your trip can certainly be positioned as a resume builder (which may or may not be BS) but without doubt the trip will make you a more broadly educated person, someone who can hold an intelligent conversation on more topics. Your geography will be better, your understanding of foreign markets will improve, your ability to relate to people of diverse backgrounds will be developed. In short, you will be a better, more attractive employee in virtually any field.


Lisa Lubin’s New Business Card
Monday, September 20th, 2010

Worried that taking a career break to travel can hurt your career? It can actually help enhance it. Just look at Lisa Lubin’s new business card.

[singlepic=1878,250,,,right]As summer rapidly comes to a close, I am reminded that it was four years ago now that I quit my full time job and, in essence, my full-time career in television. Since university, I’d worked in broadcast television, starting after my sophomore year with my first internships, including one at “Late Night with David Letterman.” I graduated college and worked full time ever since, at three different television stations – directing, editing, writing and producing. I built a ‘career.’ I was stable and secure. I was saving my pennies and hard earned money…for ‘something.’ I had a bi-weekly direct deposit check, a really good health insurance package, a retirement plan that I funded generously, and some stock shares in my parent company: Disney.

Then in the summer of 2006, I quit. I gave it all up. And I don’t regret it one bit.

Networking on the Road
I didn’t know what I would do when I ‘returned.’ I wasn’t sure, but I was open to new things and willing to just see what happened. I suppose I’ve always been lucky to feel confident in my resourcefulness and abilities and that I would always find ‘something.’ So I really didn’t worry all that much. I remember back in college learning about something called “networking.” Yuck. It seemed so phony or uncomfortable. Now networking is all I do. But I don’t think of it like that. I love talking to people – learning what they do and how they got there. When I traveled, that’s all I did – meet people and ‘network’ in a sense, which landed me random opportunities from working for Turkey’s largest media conglomerate, the Dogan Group, (I just proofread some presentations, but it was still amazing to just ‘fall’ into that from chatting with people) to doing research at the University of Cologne (through a friend) to landing a year-long freelance gig (which basically funded all my travels from then on, allowing me to break even) doing publicity for an English Immersion program based in Madrid.

Many people asked me, “What about the economy?”

Bottom line, I make much less than I did previously, but it frankly doesn’t matter and hasn’t changed my quality of life at all.


Career Break Guide Table of Contents

Meet Plan Go